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Developing strategies to deal with stress can prevent or reduce its effects. There are many approaches to managing, relieving or coping with stress. These include exercise, dietary changes, relaxation, stress management courses, counselling and medications.
Exercise and Diet
Diet and exercise can play an important role in the relief of stress. Eat a balanced diet and avoid foods that may increase tension eg: coffee, tea, and foods high in sugar. Exercise helps to release built up tension and increases fitness. This, in turn, increases the body's ability to deal with stress and helps to avoid the damage to our health that prolonged stress can cause. It is recommended that exercise be undertaken at least three times per week to be of most benefit. If you are not used to exercise, discuss this with a doctor prior to commencing an exercise programme.
Relaxation is an effective way to help reduce muscle tension associated with stress. There are many different relaxation techniques eg: yoga, meditation, massage. Some people find that simply taking "time out" during the day or after a stressful situation is sufficient to reduce stress levels. There are more formalised relaxation techniques available eg: Jacobson's Progressive Relaxation Technique, The Mitchell Method and hypnosis. Consult a doctor or community resource group (eg: Citizen's Advice Bureau) to find out what services are available. A local library may also be able to recommend suitable books on this topic.
Stress management courses
Stress management courses enable individuals to develop strategies to cope with life and stress more effectively. Most courses teach skills that enable the individual to recognise current stressors and techniques to effectively deal with these. Skills such as time management, goal setting, assertive communication, problem solving, managing change and relaxation techniques may be taught.
Discussing concerns with an impartial person may assist with recognising stressors and deciding upon strategies to deal with them. This does not necessarily need to be a professional therapist but may be a trusted family member, friend or colleague. Often the process of discussing a concern is enough to alleviate the stress it is causing. Asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness. Knowing when to ask for help may be one of the changes necessary in order to deal with stress more appropriately.
Some people find therapies such as acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine and aromatherapy effective in both preventing and relieving stress.
In severe cases of stress, medication may be prescribed to treat some of the symptoms caused by stress. Medication should only be considered as a short-term treatment and should be strictly monitored by the prescribing doctor.
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